Friday, March 28, 2014

DEAR TELEVISION ACADEMY: TELL US WHAT KIND OF SHOW "TRUE DETECTIVE" IS! A Call-to-Action to the Television Academy's Executives and Governors.

March 28, 2014

Mr. Bruce Rosenblum, Chairman & CEO
c/o Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
5220 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Dear Mr. Rosenblum, et. al.:

I usually would only write to you or similar organizations renown for giving out awards in the form of a memo regarding people/shows you should consider for awards, like Cristin Milloti or Zosia Mamet for Supporting Actress for "How I Met Your Mother" and "Girls" respectively, or "The Newsroom" for every category it's eligible for, but I'm afraid this isn't a memo like that. Consider this a call-to-action on your part to take charge of your own awards. While at one point, the allowing for the shows to choose the categories in which they submit the work into based on genre can be rather trivial and frankly, it should be little more than a technicality than anything else, but instead, it's become a game of musical chairs, filled with constant changing and maneuvering just to try to win an Award. This week, "Shameless", (a show that, by the way, I already thought was a comedy) finally entered itself as a comedy this year, as it was listed as a drama before, and HBO's "True Detective", an anthology series decided to go into the Drama Series category, instead of Miniseries as they were expected to, similar to how, "American Horror Story", a similarly based yearly anthology series has done. Also, Netflix's "Orange is the New Black", has shifted genres from when it was considered a drama for the Golden Globes and other major awards, but has suddenly switched to comedy for the Primetime Emmys after a disappointing showing. In recent years, numerous shows have often switched genres just to win Awards, or to re-categorize itself like canceled shows, re-inventing themselves as miniseries. I foresaw this movement in a blogpost I wrote earlier, which also describes how the long-form program has is many ways going through both a resurgence and a renaissance in which it's now difficult to determine exactly what category a show should be placed in. (You can see that post at the link below)

It's not even particularly new admittedly, people like David E. Kelley have been blurring the line for awhile with his programs, even admitting once, after "Ally McBeal" won the Golden Globe when he said "You can tell by the shriek that we were the most surprised; we didn't even know which category to enter into." (He also switch genres occasionally for his show "Boston Legal" a few times depending on Award show. And I'd argue that shows like "Northern Exposure" and especially "Moonlighting" really were the ones that started testing the "Is it a sitcom or is it a drama series" limits even earlier.)

I understand some of the difficulty this may entail with certain shows, however, I contend that this has to stop, and soon, and that you, the Academy, should be at the forefront of stopping it. There's no decent way of making a new category(ies) for series that combine these genres, and any attempt to do so would simply be ridiculous, however, what the Academy can do, is make a determination on what category a program should be entered in. The rules eligibility state that a show, must air on American television from July 1 to May 31, and that program must in term be submitted for eligibility. That's fine, convenient, and practical, however shows also choose which category they feel they're to be submitted into, and that practice, has to start being taken out of the hands of the eligible nominees. Why can't, that, when a show become Emmy eligible, the Academy forms a committee to determine what category is most appropriate for the series? You already do it, for some categories, like certain shows that shoot with different styles like single and three-camera series in certain categories? Lately, you yourselves have been blurring the lines too much, like suddenly allowing "Saturday Night Live" guest host to be eligible for Guest Actor in a Comedy Series roles, when otherwise, the show is placed in the "Comedy, Variety or Musical Program" group of categories. Again, understandable why certain lines can and do get blurred, but I'd say that perhaps the potential nominees shouldn't have the final say. For instance, why can't you clarify exactly which category "True Detective" would be eligible for? Most of the time, this won't be troublesome, but just set up a group that takes submitted/eligible shows and determine the correct categories for them. It wouldn't be too hard, or take too long. Once a show becomes eligible, they almost always chose to submit their shows/performances for Emmy consideration, particularly so regarding the Primetime Emmys, and while there's an ever-expanding amount of eligible shows, especially when you take into account, the internet, it still shouldn't take an entire 20+ episode season to determine whether a show is a drama or a comedy, and more importantly, a determination like that shouldn't be placed at the discretion of the producers or the network, or whomever selects such things for a series.

Currently, there are very few guidelines preventing whether or not a show can be in a category, and because somewhere along the line, the traditional difference between, what's traditionally thought out as a sitcom and a drama and many other lines have gotten blurred, they have the ability to do this, and frankly, I don't think they should. There's for instance, in the case of comedy or drama, there are structural elements that make things a comedy, even if, they may not traditionally or naturally be intended to simply make us laugh. I think about how "The Merchant of Venice" is always called one of Shakespeare's comedies, and it's a truly frightening tale at times, but structurally, it is a comedy. These are determinations that can easily be determined by an in-house committee of professional, scholars and other experts.

As with miniseries or series, many times, canceled regular series like "The Starter Wife" and last year's "Political Animals", as well as this year's "Those Who Kill", having been submitted in the miniseries category. I would ask for you to consider, what if "24", like that show originally planned, had only lasted the one season, what would that show have been considered? 24 episodes would be very long for a miniseries, nowadays however, as few as six or seven episodes can be considered a season. Just because a show is canceled doesn't mean it's a miniseries, and I contend that, yes, while some of these choices may indeed be difficult and 'cause great debate, that it should be the Academy that makes the determination. I, personally, don't particularly care, what you call a show in particular, but the ability to determine what a show is based on,- using whatever reasonable criteria you can come up with, history, tradition, structure, intentions, whatever, that decision, the moment a show becomes eligible for that year's awards, should be determine by the Academy. I would even contend that other decision like whether an actor/actress is a lead, supporting or guest role for instance, should also be determined by the Academy. Granted, some of these decisions and rulings, may naturally change from year-by-year but I find that the integrity of the Emmys is at stake, and before "American Idol" calls itself a drama series, or some other show(s) make a far outstretched attempt to test the definition and of the genre categories, I believe it is in the Academy's best interest to be the ones responsible for making such determinations, and to do so as early as possible, to get ahead of issues like this, before they happen. You were ahead of the time on the eligibility of TV series on the internet, you're already falling behind on this, and it's time to catch up, and I cannot urge you any more aggressively than I am now.

I hope you strongly consider the requests and suggestion I make in this letter, and hopefully put them into action soon. Thank you.


David Baruffi
Blogger/Editor for "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews"
Henderson, NV 89015

cc: Kevin Hamburger, Vice-Chair Executive Committee
Frank Sherma, Second Vice-Chair, Executive Committee
Rob Schwartz, Secretary, Executive Committee
Susan Nessenbaum-Goldberg, Treasurer, Executive Committee
Greg Taylor, Los Angeles Area Vice-Chair, Executive Committee
Jerry Petry, Academy Foundation Chairman, Executive Committee
John Langraff, Chair's Appointee, Executive Committee
Michael Lombardo, Chair's Appointee, Executive Committee
Steve Mosko, Chair's Appointee, Executive Committee
Ted Sarandos, Chair's Appointee, Executive Committee
Nina Tassler, Chair's Appointee, Executive Committee
Bob Bergen, Governors' Appointee, Executive Committee; Performers, Board of Governors
Allison Binder, Governors' Appointee, Executive Committee; Professional Representative, Board of Governors
Daniel Evans III, Governor's Appointee, Executive Committee; Children's Programming, Board of Governors
Sharon Lieblen, CSA, Governors' Appointee, Executive Committee; Casting Directors, Board of Governors
Leo Chaloukian C.A.S., Consultant to the Chair, Executive Committee
Thomas W. Sarnoff, Consultant to the Chair, Executive Committee
Ruth Adelman, Sound Editor, Board of Governors
Eric Anderson, Motion and Title Design, Board of Governors
Stuart Bass A.C.E., Picture Editors, Board of Governors
Daniel H. Birman, Documentary Programming, Board of Governors
Beth Bohn, Professionals Representative, Board of Governors
Scott Boyd, A.C.E., Picture Editors, Board of Governors
Sub Bub, Costume Design & Supervision, Board of Governors
Russell Calabrese, Animation, Board of Governors
Tony Carey, Production Executives, Board of Governors
Barbara Cassel, Art Directors and Set Directors, Board of Governors
James Pearce Connolly, Art Directors and Set Decorators, Board of Governors
Gerri Shaftel Constant, Los Angeles Area, Board of Governors
Shari Cookson, Documentary Programming, Board of Governors
Edward Fassl, Sound Editors, Board of Governors
Rick Fissbein, Commercials, Board of Governors
John C. Fisher, Daytime Programming, Board of Governors
Ian Fraser, Music, Board of Governors
Tim Gibbons, Producers, Board of Governors
Tammy Glover, Production Executives, Board of Governors
Ed Greene, Sound, Board of Governors
Peter Hammond, Writers, Board of Governors
Monte C. Haught, Makeup/Hairstylists, Board of Governors
Kieran Healy, Electronic Production, Board of Governors
Tana Nugen Jamieson, Television Executives, Board of Governors
Chip Johannesson, Writers, Board of Governors
Marc Johnson, Interactive Media, Board of Governors
Lynda Kahn, Motion and Title Design, Board of Governors
David Kleeman, Children's Programming, Board of Governors
Michael A. Levine, Music, Board of Governors
Sharon Liggins, Public Relations, Board of Governors
Gail Mancuso, Directors, Board of Governors
Angelica McDaniel, Daytime Programming, Board of Governors
Daniel McKillop, Reality Programming, Board of Governors
Howard Meltzer CSA, Casting Directors, Board of Governors
Patricia Messina, Makeup/Hairstylists, Board of Governors
Dorenda Moore, Stunts, Board of Governors
Jonathan Murray, Reality Programming, Board of Governors
John O'Brien, Electronic Programming, Board of Governors
Brian O'Rourke, Commercials, Board of Governors
Russ Patrick, Public Relations, Board of Governors
Lowell Peterson, ASC, Cinematographers, Board of Governors
Kevin Pike, Special Visual Effects, Board of Governors
William Powloski, Special Visual Effects, Board of Governors
Mary Rose, Costume Design and Supervision, Board of Governors
Fred Savage, Directors, Board of Governors
Seth Shapiro, Interactive Media, Board of Governors
Chuck Sheetz, Animation, Board of Governors
Michael Sluchan, Television Executives, Board of Governors
Sabrina Fair Thomas, Los Angeles Area, Board of Governors
Lily Tomlin, Performers, Board of Governors
Steve Vanezia, C.A.S., Sound, Board of Governors
Hayma "Screech" Washington, Producers, Board of Governors
Thom Williams, Stunts, Board of Governors
Kenneth Zunder ASC, Cinematographers, Board of Governors

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